The Quiet Crisis
Updated in 2020, this revision enables the community to view the status of school libraries with 20/20 vision.
What do the Meadows School, Alexander Dawson, Faith Lutheran, and Las Vegas Day School have in common? Yes, these are some of the Las Vegas Valley's highest performing schools. Not coincidentally, they have something else in common. All of these schools have a world class library media center, which by definition means the library is run by a certified teacher-librarian.
The Value of School Librarians: A National Perspective
Historically, every school library in the Clark County School District was managed by an on-site library professional. Academically, school libraries create a rising tide that lifts all ships. As would be expected, this was a great source of pride for the school district. In the last few years however, trojan horses like flexible staffing have undermined this cherished tradition. The unintended consequence is that by the 2013-14 school year, there were 24 libraries our of 357 schools that did not have a teacher-librarian.1 The number has since skyrocketed so that by the 2018-19 school year, there were 87 libraries out of 360 schools without librarians.2
What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.
- Harold Howe
This trend has led to the Quiet Crisis that our schools currently face. This phenomenon takes a school's library collection that averages $289,848.14 out of the management of qualified professionals.4 In addition, such schools lose their technology leader, primary literacy advocate, and on-site research specialist. Libraries are increasingly run by well-meaning but untrained aides and parent volunteers with mixed results. There is a mountain of research that has proved the link between quality school libraries and academic achievement. This is a quiet crisis since so few are cognizant of how we are choosing to ignore that research and dismantle what we know works in our schools. Since our children's future is at stake, this issue deserves an examination. In the end, we hope that you'll become aware of the Quiet Crisis and work to save our school libraries.
School districts throughout the United States face ever-increasing budget cuts, compelling them to make difficult and life-changing decisions. These cuts arise in spite of new standards and an increased demand for rigorous instruction. The result is often a reduction in the work force. Administrators are hesitant to eliminate classroom teacher positions, leading to a recent trend of eliminating certified school librarian positions. Carl Harvey II, former American Association of School Librarians president asserts that "cuts to school librarian positions betray an ignorance of the key role school librarians play in a child's education" (2011).
Numerous research studies confirm that certified teacher-librarians do indeed impact student achievement. In one such study, Keith Curry Lance and Linda Hofschire analyzed six years of Colorado student reading test scores in relation to school library staffing. They wrote, "our results showed that there is a positive and statistically significant relationship between advanced reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing trends" (p. 17, 2012). Furthermore, students in schools that gained a certified school librarian during the course of their study showed similar growth. These gains occurred regardless of the community's socio-economic status.
Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.
The publication School Libraries Work! is the result of reviewing research findings from several state-sponsored studies that investigated the value of school librarians. The document clearly states the vital role librarians play in a child's education. "When library media specialists work with teachers to support learning opportunities…students learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized tests than their peers in schools without good libraries" (p. 4, 2008). Students need access to up-to-date print and electronic materials along with the guidance offered by certified teacher-librarians. Teachers need librarians to collaborate and co-teach. Ultimately, school librarians have the opportunity to change lives as they develop students' interest in reading, teach them to conduct ethical research, and explore the possibilities of tomorrow. The conclusion of similar studies are affirmed year after year. What will it take to finally convince politicians, school boards, and principals?
The Value of School Librarians: A Local Perspective
To our CCSD librarians,
Thank you for being such an important part of the school system. I know that libraries are the hearts of our schools.
Many people don't realize that librarians are indeed teachers. You spend time supplementing common core at your library, and you collaborate with school staff to ensure that students get the absolute best out of their education. Your dedication to students can be seen in even the smallest gestures, such as opening the library before school hours and keeping it open after hours.
You constantly reflect on your work and provide instruction. You develop collections for students to preserve knowledge and history. Rather than let technology take the place of books, you have embraced its significance and integrated it into the curriculum. You play a pivotal role in the learning process as these new technologies continue to emerge and evolve.
You are the reading advocate who gets students excited and enthusiastic about learning. You begin by giving students the key to unlock their imaginations through storytelling, and see them through their journey by providing them with literacy skills to help them become college and career ready in the 21st century.
Although CCSD Librarians Day is only one day, we all celebrate and recognize you every day of the year. We appreciate your hard work and thank you for everything you do.
Message from Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky to teacher-librarians on CCSD Librarians Day, March 5, 2014
National research studies make a slam dunk case when it comes to the value of having a real teacher-librarian manage a library media center. How about here in the Las Vegas Valley? As would be expected, teacher-librarians select and make available the print and electronic literature and informational text that students need in order to learn the curriculum and enrich their lives. Comparatively, aides and parent helpers don't attend American Library Association conferences or subscribe to professional literature to know what to purchase for a collection. It's also known that teacher-librarians are often the sherpas that teach students to navigate the frontiers of the digital world. Building on what was learned in a library master's program, these are skills refined at Clark County School Librarians Association meetings. Support staff isn't going to be informed enough to make a decision about whether to purchase a set of Kindles or Nooks for a school. Aides are not going to arrange an author visit to a school. Beyond this, support staff is unlikely to be trained in using the Clark County School District’s (CCSD’s) excellent collection of digital databases. Additionally, most wouldn't expect support staff to write a collection development policy or assess fines for damages. In contrast, each teacher-librarian spends many hours collaborating with classroom teachers and helping students to learn the Common Core State Standards. Clearly, a library media program is much more than lending books.
While these things are a given, the other contributions that the average teacher-librarian makes isn't always obvious. For example, Cindy Baca is the teacher-librarian at Escobedo Middle School. Her library is open before and after school as well as during all lunches. Not only is she the Cheer Coach and Honor Society Advisor, Mrs. Baca runs programs like the Bristlecone Storytelling Festival, Poetry Jam, Teen Technology Week, and Nevada Reading Week. She even runs a blog. At Swainston Middle School, Shelby Guinn gets students reading by broadcasting his informative and entertaining Guinnasium Reports on CCSD TV. He also raises money by running book fairs.
Literature Themed Pumpkin Contest run by Jennifer Dean Morris
Niki Pounds-Smead runs the Nevada Young Readers’ Award program at her school. She has also collected thousands of dollars for her library program through Donors Choose. In addition to bringing guest authors to her school, she has also pulled in the Las Vegas Lights, Las Vegas Mob Museum, and even the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team. At the Faiss Library, Jennifer Dean Morris puts on incentive based reading competitions such as the House Cup Reading Challenge. She also runs book release celebration parties and hosts at least four guest authors a year to get kids interested in writing. Moreover, she is her site’s WIDA Tester and an administrator for the Ron Clark Engagement Model. Then again Glenda Alberti uses social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to communicate with her community.
Objects students designed and printed using the library's 3D Printer. Activity run by Book Master Dwyer.
When she’s not teaching RPDP classes for the librarian endorsement program, she leads the Collaboration for School Librarians group which meets monthly to discuss ways teacher-librarians can improve their programs. Mrs. Alberti also runs the daily video announcements for her school and motivates kids to think creatively with her maker space. In contrast, ‘Book Master Dwyer’ ran a Star Wars Book Club and African Rhythm Ensemble in elementary school before moving to Woodbury Middle School and starting a 3D Print Club. When he’s not managing the G-Suite program at his school, he teaches lessons on digital addiction and cyberbullying. Leonard Duck leads the Battle of the Books program at Gehring Elementary.
When a book was challenged at her school, Wendy Vanberkum Payer, served on her library media committee to keep the process within regulations: "As per regulation 6150, each school should have in place a Library Review Committee consisting of the librarian, principal or designee, two parents, and three teachers." At Liberty High School, Susan Slykerman does a weekly TV segment at her school, Tech Tuesday, Books & Brushes, and a student book club as well as a parent book club. When she's not on campus, she's a moderator at the Las Vegas Book Festival and teaches in the Library Endorsement Program. It’s easy to think of the people mentioned here as being exceptional, but they actually represent typical teacher-librarians. Library aides and parent volunteers play an essential role in our schools, but does anyone really expect support staff to make any of these sorts of contributions? Outside of the teacher-librarian, there's no one else on a school campus that can bring this sort of academic richness to a school.
The Clark County School District recognizes that an effective library is an important and integral part of the educational program in each school, and the Clark County School District will provide adequate school libraries (CCSD Policy 6161).
What Happens When A Ship Has No Captain?
When teacher-librarians are removed from the library, there are several potential outcomes. In some cases, there is no replacement and the library is simply closed. In this scenario, students can not conduct research or borrow books for recreational reading. Put another way, students are denied access to a collection that in some cases costs tax payers over a million dollars.5 The second and most likely outcome is that these libraries are managed by a clerical aide for a few hours of the day. Having no training in library science, aides draw heavily on the knowledge of certified librarians, increasing the strain on surviving library media programs.
Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.
An example of this is the way that teacher-librarian Tricia Young assists the aide at nearby Tarkanian Middle School. Since aides don't have training in cataloging the materials that need to be added to a school's collection, National Board Certified teacher-librarian Karen Egger also steps-up and assists aides that take care of libraries. At one point, Mrs. Egger needed to contact such an aide, but gave up after three failed attempts to reach anybody in the library. In the end, networking is no substitute for a certificate. As a result, these libraries often fall into disrepair. Sometimes a school's administration realizes the folly and reinstates the position. It is under such a circumstance that Tammie Brooks took over the Tartan Elementary School library. She found that the library's books were scrambled on the shelves. In the absence of a certified person, no book repair or end of the year inventory had been done. It took two years to restore the collection. Unfortunately, this is a common story.
Coming from a different angle, Kari Besancon writes of how these mismanaged libraries impact the entire school district. "One of the things that I have noticed about libraries without teacher-librarians, is that when returning books (or when students pay for books), it is nearly impossible to get the overdue item taken off the student account. There have been three instances when I had to call Library Services to have overdues taken off student accounts. It's a nightmare." A third outcome is that the library is dissolved and the library media center is converted into another space, often referred to as a blended learning area or multimedia center. Mojave High School eliminated the librarian position and the space is now used for credit retrieval. The books were removed and are being stored just in case Nevada someday mandates schools to have teacher-librarians. Betting against this possibility, Northwest Career & Technical Academy gave most of their books away after getting rid of their final librarian. Parents now have to purchase English class books from Barnes and Noble.
As Fertitta Middle School dismantled their library, books were thrown into dumpsters attracting the attention of the media. At Global Community High School, the principal circumvented the Site Organizational Team and started getting rid of books before an outcry slowed the dismantling. Nowadays, the library has about a third of the original books. That said, the school somehow found the money to install pedal bikes into the newly christened resource center. After getting rid of the librarian position, Desert Oasis blocked off their remaining books with caution tape. Las Vegas Academy has by and large turned their library into an Internet Café. One of the strangest situations happened at Kay Carl Elementary. The librarian position was eliminated and the physical collection was squeezed into what had been the physical education room so that the original library space could become the new p.e. room. When teacher-librarians are removed from the library, there are several potential outcomes but none of them are an improvement over the previous library media program.
So What, Aren't Libraries Dead Anyway?
An exploration of the Quiet Crisis would be incomplete without responding to the sentiment that none of this really matters since the need for libraries is waning. While print books are on the way out, this in no way diminishes the importance of quality library media centers. To the contrary, the transition to digital literature and information increases the need for trained professionals that can help students make a smooth transition and then aide their mastery of the digital environment. When it comes to ereaders, Suzanne Davis at Bracken Elementary School has long offered Kindles to her students, while Leonard Duck teaches his students how to use the library's Nooks.
In the nonstop tsunami of global information, librarians provide us with floaties and teach us to swim.
In contrast, Jill Savage at Saville Middle School uses Destiny Discover, which enables her students to borrow ebooks and then read them on their smart phones. Then again, Yunn-Hwa Lii uses OverDrive, which enables the students at Harney to borrow books and read them on most ereading devices like iPads.
As the way people experience literature is making a digital transition, the world of research is being transformed by the Internet. Again, teacher-librarians lead the way. In the school district, school librarians are the proponents that teach students and teachers to use what are referred to as databases. The World Wide Web that can be found with Google constitutes a mixed bag, so the databases are high quality online sources that are paid for by the CCSD.
Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.
Sites like EBSCO, Gale, and World Book can be reached through the homepage of most school library catalogs. Many teacher-librarians like Brian Pawley at Hyde Park champion these expensive resources that would otherwise go unnoticed. Today's CCSD library connects patrons to resources that extend well beyond the physical walls of the school. Pawley also teaches 21st century research strategies like the Big6™ while others prefer the WISE model. Some are surprised to learn that teacher-librarians have a curriculum, and elementary school librarians issue report card grades for library class. After literature appreciation and analysis, research is the other half of the library curriculum. Many like Autumn Medina teach students about avoiding plagiarism, differentiating between facts & opinions, and properly citing sources for both conventional papers and multimedia projects like Google Slides shows. Despite the arguments made by library skeptics, classroom teachers seldom have the training, access to technology, or time to teach such skills. Thus the way people read books for pleasure and look for information is undergoing a radical transformation. Teacher-librarians have not just evolved to stay current, they have led the way. To reflect these 21st century changes, 'library media center' is often used instead of the term library. Clearly it is a myth that libraries are increasingly obsolete because they clutch to print books. In the future, library media centers will remain vital, and teacher-librarians will continue to be the on-site leaders of new informational technologies.
The Quiet Crisis: In Their Words
My name is Adryana, I am a freshman at Las Vegas High School, the same school that my mother graduated from. As long as I can remember, I have had a passion for reading. I cannot tell you the first time that I read a book or attended a public library because I have done both from a very young age. However, I can remember my first experience in a school library at Tanaka Elementary. Elaine Kelley was my first Librarian and I still maintain a friendship with her today. She taught me the Dewey Decimal System, helped me check out my first book, and I have loved libraries ever since. I believe a school library is the heart of every school because the librarian touches every student with his or her passion for educating.
When I heard the news that our school librarian would not be returning, I had an immediate pit in my stomach. No librarian? Not possible! It confused me that someone else had the power to decide that this is not an essential part of my education. Librarians play a very important role in student learning today. A study in 2005 of the Illinois school libraries shows that students who frequently visit well stocked and well staffed libraries end up with higher test scores, and perform better on reading and writing exams. Without a certified librarian, student learning abilities would decrease drastically. Librarians are important in the process of the cultural evolution! Eliminating my librarian will prove to be a disadvantage to me and to my fellow students. Our librarians deserve to be appreciated and validated not unemployed.
The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District has a number of partnerships with the Clark County School District revolving around early literacy, school age reading and struggling readers. The Library District supports school librarians and/or certified professionals in school libraries. Just as the Library District utilizes its professional librarians to help patrons navigate the myriad information sources, services and reading options, we appreciate the professionals at school libraries who do the same every day for Clark County students.
Sincerely, Thomas F. Fay, Deputy Director/COO
Unfortunately, neither of my children's school libraries [here in Las Vegas] have a librarian. Knowing that I had the time, I am volunteering to work in the Lied Middle School Library. Originally, I had one goal, to help the library open so that the children could check out books. I have always had a deep passion for reading and wanted to do what I could to help the library stay open for the children. I come from a world of budgets, profit and loss, and can understand when it is necessary to make cuts in one area to afford something in another and doing the best you can with what you have. I would like you to know that even though I truly love volunteering here, I do strongly believe in the need for school librarians.
A library is a place for kids to go, not just to pick up a book, but for so much more. A library opens up the world to students, giving them access to books allows them to learn, escape into a new adventure, and can help them become who they are meant to be. Not all children have access to a public library. A school library is all they have. A librarian isn't just about checking books in and out. A librarian can help them learn to acquire, evaluate and effectively use information that not only helps them with school, but expands their horizons. Closing a library to me means that you are closing off a student's ability to learn and grow. I positively love helping the students with their reading choices. I love the look on their face when they find an author that they love to follow, or when they have read a book and have learned things that inspire them. I feel extremely grateful that our administration has allowed this opportunity for me and the other volunteers to help them, but I understand they deserve someone that can help them more.
Sincerely, Christina Welty, Parent Volunteer
The administration of Lied Middle School came to appreciate the wisdom of Christina Welty’s words. As a result, the library position has been reinstated. Her words remain here since her experience represents that of so many parent volunteers.
The UNLV University Libraries believe that Clark County School District (CCSD) librarians can and do play a crucial role in the development of students' competencies for college and career readiness and support K-12 school librarians in their role as essential educators in our community. The UNLV Libraries' current strategic plan emphasizes a commitment to "develop partnerships and deliver programming for K-12 educators and students with a focus on integrating research-based learning into the curriculum and recruitment of well-prepared students."
Through programs such as our Teacher-Librarian Institute for Integration of Research into the K-12 Curriculum, the UNLV Libraries model teacher-librarian collaboration and the impact that school librarians have on the academic success of their students. As information literacy experts, certified school librarians are in a unique position to provide educational experiences that transcend traditional subject areas in order to contribute to the development of students' research, technology, and critical thinking skills--intellectual abilities that are indispensable in higher education. The UNLV Libraries depend on the active involvement of school librarians with their elementary and secondary students to ensure that students are ready to enter college and have a firm foundation for success.
For many years, every school library proudly hosted a certified teacher-librarian. In the latter half of the first decade of the new millennium, the superintendent and board approved changes in staffing procedures. As a result, many principals have decided to run their school libraries without certified school librarians. As a result, these libraries have become ghosts of what they once were. In some cases, libraries have been outright dismantled. These events created the Quiet Crisis.
The librarian isn't a clerk who happens to work in a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. - Seth Godin
The name of the phenomenon is based on both the severity of the problem and limited amount of public recognition. The Quiet Crisis is happening despite a mountain of research that supports the value of having certified teacher-librarians run well-funded library media programs. Aside from the national research, many local teacher-librarians make outstanding contributions to their schools. On one hand, we believe that the Quiet Crisis has made the District less competitive when compared to its private counterparts. On the other hand, this situation has led to a drift between the level of equality between public schools. Indeed, the schools without librarians tend to serve students of color in economically stressed areas. We believe that every child deserves a school with a quality library media center. Now that the case has been made for quality school libraries, our hope is that action on behalf of parents and community members will work to reverse the current trend.
Working to End the Quiet Crisis
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead
If you're a parent with a child at a school with a teacher-librarian, first communicate your support to the school administrators. Share some of your child's experiences. Second, share your enthusiasm with your representative on the Board of School Trustees. Find who serves your area and drop a line. Third, do the same with the superintendent. In a similar vein, share your support for school libraries when completing the Clark County School District's annual survey. Fourth, contact your representatives in the Nevada Assembly and Senate. Who are your representatives? Contact your legislator. Contact your senator.
Fifth, promote the cause through social media platforms by following and retweeting hashtags like #libraryadvocacy #librarieschangelives #lovelibraries #librariesgiveuspower. In addition, include handles and tags that are associated with people and organizations that have the power to either get the message out there or impact change on both large and site based levels. Here are some Twitter examples: @ClarkCountySch, @GovSisolak, @SuptJaraCCSD, your board of trustees rep (Find who serves your area), @LasVegasSun, @reviewjournal, @TheNVIndy, @StateStatus_NV, @RepSusieLee, @RepHorsford, @Ohrenschall4NV, @repdinatitus, @HowardWattsNV, and the accounts of schools without teacher-librarians, the social media accounts of principals that run schools without teacher librarians, etc. To assist with this endeavor, the bottom of this website contains social media graphics that can be used to bring people to this Quiet Crisis document. While anytime is a good time, April is School Library Month. You can also give a nod to your teacher-librarian on CCSD School Librarians Day which usually happens in the end of February or early March.
If you're a parent with a child at a school without a teacher-librarian, first communicate to the school administrators why you would like for this to change. What are your concerns with regard to the way the school library is run? If your child ever attended a school with a teacher-librarian, contrast your child's current experiences with those in the former library media program. Second, express to your representative on the Board of School Trustees how you would like for your child's school library to once again operate under the leadership of a certified teacher-librarian. Find who serves your area and drop a line. Share a link to this Quiet Crisis document with the trustee. Third, do the same with the superintendent. Also share your support for school libraries when completing the Clark County School District's annual survey. Fourth, contact your representatives in the Nevada Assembly and Senate. Who are your representatives? Contact your legislator. Contact your senator.
Fifth, promote the cause through social media platforms by following and retweeting hashtags like #libraryadvocacy #librarieschangelives #lovelibraries #librariesgiveuspower. In addition, include handles and tags that are associated with people and organizations that have the power to either get the message out there or impact change on both large and site based levels. Here are some Twitter examples: @ClarkCountySch, @GovSisolak, @SuptJaraCCSD, your board of trustees rep (Find who serves your area), @LasVegasSun, @reviewjournal, @TheNVIndy, @StateStatus_NV, @RepSusieLee, @RepHorsford, @Ohrenschall4NV, @repdinatitus, @HowardWattsNV, and the accounts of schools without teacher-librarians, the social media accounts of principals that run schools without teacher librarians, etc. To assist with this endeavor, the bottom of this website contains social media graphics that can be used to bring people to this Quiet Crisis document. While anytime is a good time, April is School Library Month. An obituary for the vacancy at your child's school can be posted on CCSD School Librarians Day which usually happens in the end of February or early March.
2013-2014 Report Generated by CCSD Library Services; the number of schools is from CCSD Fast Facts 2013-2014 (GAC 5730.2), Revised October 2013.
2018-2019 Report Generated by CCSD Library Services; the number of schools is from CCSD Fast Facts 2018-19 (GAC 5730.2).
The chart that shows libraries without librarians from 2013-14 to 2018-19 is based on Reports Generated by CCSD Library Services.
Average Collection Value Report generated by CCSD Library Services and shared by CCSD Office of Communications in October of 2019.
High End Collection Value Report generated by CCSD Library Services and shared by CCSD Office of Communications in October of 2019. The most expensive library collection is $1,064, 708.27.
Middle School photograph, 2014
Parent clipart image is from pngimg.com
Student clipart image is from pngimg.com
Clark County School District Policy 6161. Retrieved June 1, 2014, from
Harvey, C. (2011). What you can do to support school libraries in crisis. Huffington Post. While the article is no longer hosted online, it was retrieved from
Lance, K. & Hofschire, L. (2012). School librarian staffing linked with gains in student achievement, 2005 to 2011. Teacher Librarian, 39(6), 15-19. Retrieved from
Library Committee, CCSD Policy 6150. Retrieved June 1, 2014, from
School libraries work! (2008). Jefferson City, MO: Scholastic Library Publishing.
While the 2008 edition of School Libraries Work! is cited, Scholastic has since released a 2016 version which furthers the conclusions of the study. https://tinyurl.com/schoollibrarieswork2016
Skorkowsky, P. (2014, March 5). Message from Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky to librarians on CCSD Librarians Day. While the link no longer works, it was retrieved June 1, 2014, from
The Right to School Libraries
Policies and Articles of Incorporation
Relevant Articles of Incorporation for the Clark County School Librarians Association, taken from the by-laws.
Section 1. The purposes of this association shall be to:
Sponsor special programs and events to encourage the use of school libraries and to enrich the educational programs in school in Clark County.
Strengthen library services in the Clark County School District.
Inform members and the public of current issues concerning libraries, intellectual freedom, and education.
Open Communication and Free Exchange of Ideas
The Clark County School District encourages open and honest professional communications among employees and believes that the free exchange of such ideas is in the district's best interest. It is the intent of the district to protect the rights of an employee who engages in such conduct. (Clark County School District Policy 4391)
Watch the Channel 13 broadcast of Las Vegas schools being forced to cut library staff due to lack of money
Clark County School Watch: CCSD is dangerously short on librarians
Las Vegas Review Journal: Bill would require Clark, Washoe schools to have librarians